No doubt about it, the scale of the disaster of the flooding on November 14-15 is Merritt’s ‘biggest thing ever’. And perhaps not the stars of the show — though the back-bone, for sure — is the City of Merritt staff, city works crews, firefighters & council. To all of them: thank you for your service above & beyond…
I think most people step up to a situation when called upon, and in such a small community you don’t have to look very far to find someone who is bearing the brunt of major decision-making, action-planning & old-fashion grunt work — all for the benefit of the town. And many of staff & volunteers were dealing with their own evacuation at the same time.
Personally, I happen to think we have the best CAO for the situation we find ourselves in. Sean Smith rose quickly through the ranks since the time he first arrived in Merritt as Director of Corporate Services in October 2017. He studied law at UVic, and is “a self-proclaimed local government nerd on a mission to prove that local government can be innovative, responsive and provide excellent value for residents” (his words). Sean is full of brilliance of mind, quick endearing wit, and compassion. And he has shown those again & again, even if the load is HUGE these last few weeks & will continue to be for the foreseeable future. So, mission accomplished, Sean!
Greg Lowis, now Director of Corporate Services, from the same law program at UVic and before that history-philosophy-politics at Lancaster U in England, was enticed to Merritt, no doubt by Sean. He, along with Mayor Brown & Deputy Mayor Kurt Christopherson, became the voice of City operations through this emergency. And he portrayed to the rest of the province his intelligence, calm & efficiency in the face of all the chaos — which made Merritt look good.
Sean & Greg are probably not perfect… but they do seem to be ‘fresh new faces’ to municipal government, perhaps part of the shift the world is looking for to counter the wide pendulum swing of corporate greed & government inefficiency.
We’ll probably hear more stories in the future, details & incidents about the flood that would daunt anyone, no matter how experienced. (Sean has alluded to the heroic efforts of to save the electrical system at the sewage treatment plant that first night…). Overall efforts were of course supported by Emergency Management BC, Emergency Support Services, provincial & federal governments, as well as city crews from surrounding communities, and for that we thank everyone.
Christmas has fallen right in the middle of the clean-up, but everyone who has been working & volunteering so hard these last 6 weeks deserves the down-time. So Merry Christmas, happy holidays, see you in the New Year… that, really, will be a continuation of the old year for many. — KL